St. Ives is one of those places where many people have heard of it but have no idea why they know the name. I think people know of it because of the nursery rhyme (though no one knows if that St. Ives is this St. Ives but either way, even though he has seven wives with lots of cats, it is still just one man who the traveller met).
St. Ives is located in Cornwall, England and it is a port town. It got its start back in the 5th century but it didn’t become an “official” town until it was granted its charter by the king in 1295. It had a long history of commercial fishing but, thanks to the railway, it has been a popular holiday destination ever since the Victorian times. In fact, in recent times, St. Ives has twice won the title Best UK Seaside Town from the British Travel Awards.
One of the interesting things about St. Ives is that it is hugely popular with artists. Since 1928, a colony of artists has developed here, drawn by the quality of light in the area. Today, St. Ives is considered to be one of the major centres of British art. Wandering around the town, especially by the old streets closer to the water and the 18th century pier and harbour, it is easy to see why people get such inspiration in being here. The narrow windy streets are lined with atmospheric stone buildings topped by orange lichen-encrusted slate roofs. Many of these buildings are either something arty or a bakery whose windows tempt you every few steps. And that light quality I mentioned earlier? It makes the colours pale – it isn’t washed out but it’s more like watercolour. Beautiful.
If you’re tired of wandering the streets of St. Ives, you have four different beaches from which to choose. You can walk the golden sandy length of one, admire the fishing boats in the harbour of another, surf at a third, or grab a table at a restaurant overlooking the fourth. If you’re lucky, you may even see marine animals such as seals and dolphins in the bay!
Overall, especially if you go in shoulder season, St. Ives is a lovely place to visit either for a holiday or as a day trip. While it is touristy, it is still very artsy and pretty. Wander the town, wander the beaches, and admire the art inspired by the natural surroundings. You’re pretty much guaranteed to have a lovely time. But, one warning – whatever you do in St. Ives, make sure it doesn’t include feeding the birds!